Grieving Loss Post-Covid

Grieving Loss Post-Covid

 

There are a lot of things I do very poorly. For example, I have the manual dexterity of a cow. A chimpanzee is better than me at using tools and fixing things. And anymore, a turtle moves faster than I do. (Okay, enough of the animal analogies.)

 

There is, however, one thing I do so inadequately as a human, even as a leader, that it’s embarrassing to mention.

 

I don’t grieve well.

 

Oh, I have plenty of emotional responses to loss and hardship, but I tend to get stuck in denial or depression. In other words, I don’t do well at moving through the stages of grief.

 

Someone once identified the five stages of grief as:

 

  • Denial

 

  • Anger

 

  • Bargaining

 

  • Depression

 

  • Acceptance

 

Anger doesn’t affect me like it did when I was a younger man. It takes too much energy to get and stay mad.

 

Bargaining takes a lot out of me as well.

 

Whatever the reason, and I’m sure somebody is psychoanalyzing me right now, I flip flop between denial or depression. It’s difficult for me to move into acceptance and peace after loss.

 

So, you ask, what are you grieving?

 

I’m grieving the loss of so many friends and parishioners since the Covid collapse.

 

 

I wrote about my leadership failures here, and I do take responsibility for letting too many people down. So, again, if that’s you, please forgive me.

 

But throughout the last almost eighteen months or so, I’ve watched a lot of people leave. Some unsubscribed from my blog, some left the church I pastor, and some did both. Then some are MIA, and I have no idea if I’ll ever see them again.

 

My reaction so far?

 

Oh, they’ll be back. It’s okay. All is well. (Also known as denial.)

 

Or…

 

I’ve failed them. Maybe they’ve failed me. Either way, I’ve been abandoned. I should sell cars for a living. (Also known as discouragement.)

 

I haven’t known how to process my sense of failure, my frustration with things out of my control, or the occasional fickleness of Christians.

 

And trust me, when you’re a control-freak perfectionist who hates to let people down, and you have lost people and friends, that’s an ugly recipe for despair.

 

Here are some of the things I’ve discovered about me and grief:

 

  • Grief isn’t very clean. It’s messy.

 

  • Grief is not linear. It keeps circling back at the worst possible moments.

 

  • Grief doesn’t follow any neatly defined rules. Timelines, schedules, and my plans don’t seem to matter.

 

  • Grief creates a desire in me to isolate myself. I feel empty when grief hits, and so I want to withdraw.

 

A friend, who counsels people for a living, once told me everyone grieves differently, and there isn’t a right or wrong way to process grief. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear because I like formulas and systems.

 

He also told me that though grief is very personal, for anyone to heal, they must go through it choosing to lean on someone they trust who is stronger than them.

 

 

But when I’m hurting, I hide.

 

When I’m suffering, I want to be left alone.

 

When I’m grieving, I will do anything to distract myself rather than face my pain.

 

Busyness isn’t a problem when I feel empty on the inside; it’s how I avoid my feelings.

 

But here is what I am learning: I need to lean into my grief by choosing to lean into the One who is trustworthy and always stronger than me.

 

I know, that is such a religious-sounding Christian thing to say—just lean into Jesus! It is, however, far easier to say than it is to do.

 

Too many of us lean into our favorite distractions (i.e., work, TV, video games) or our standard numbing coping mechanisms (i.e., drugs, booze, sex).

 

Too many of us get stuck in denial, anger, bargaining, or depression and never quite get to acceptance because we think no one—including God—understands us or is worthy of our trust.

 

Too many of us talk a lot about “trusting Jesus!” But trust requires surrender of our supposed right to choose our path and acceptance of the fact that we don’t control everyone or everything the way we want to.

 

Trust means I must simultaneously embrace my pain while I let go of my demand for answers.

 

 

See what I mean? Easy to talk about; hard to practice.

 

My seven-year-old granddaughter, Abby, was sitting next to me early one morning. She and I are often the first ones up, and I treasure our times together. She noticed one of my tattoos on the inside of my right arm. On it is the reference Psalm 31.

 

She asked as she rubbed her finger on the letters and the number thirty-one, “What’s that there for, Grandpa?”

 

I smiled and said, “Psalm 31 was a prayer of King David when he was in pain and hurting.”

 

“Huh,” she said, “What happened to him?”

 

I fought back the tears as I whispered, “David was hurting because some people didn’t like him, but he surrendered his life to the Lord and put his trust in God.”

 

I thought to myself, Hmmm…are you listening to your words, Grandpa?

 

That encounter with her turned out to be one of those God-moments you treasure.

 

You see, loss, grief, pain, and the thousand questions that often accompany those realities, suck. But when I take my anguish to Jesus, that’s when the final stage comes, and I start to accept what’s happened.

 

accept that God knows the pain of loss; He gets me.

 

accept that things on this side of eternity won’t always make sense.

 

accept that humans (me included) hurt one another far too often.

 

accept that He is God, and I am not.

 

And then, like David, I can say with peace, “Be strong and take heart all you who hope in the Lord” Psalm 31:24 (NIV).

 

Thanks, Abby, for pointing out something literally marked on my body (and now my soul). It was precisely what this old man needed to be reminded of, again.

 

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16 thoughts on “Grieving Loss Post-Covid

  1. Powerful and true teaching. This is a reality. Thank you for this article and it has blessed me. Indeed we need to lean on someone powerful than ourselves and His name is Jesus. The interaction story with your grandchild is a great lesson.
    Blessings and praying for you. We appreciate and love you.
    Bishop Dr.Noah and The Family

  2. Thank you Pastor, I needed to be reminded, some days grief overwhelms me and I forget that the Lord is right there with me in my grief, loss and sorrow.
    I remember being part of a Sr. Pastor team and grieving when people left, not able to satisfy etc and back then I handled that grieving process knowing that the Lord knew what was in my heart. Seems difficult to pull through the grief of my precious Arden to brain cancer after only 8 months of marriage even though I know the Lord is right here at my side. Grief is so difficult to traverse through no matter how it crosses our path. This I know for sure, I couldn’t make it through without the Lord, my Pastor and family. Even in grief, we are blessed beyond measure. I love you, Laura and my Eastpoint family.

    1. Dear Linda, thank you so much for adding your wonderful thoughts to this conversation about grief. So grateful for you and your tender heart. You are loved…

  3. I’m praying for you pastor. I know how hard it is to “let go and let God”, but that really is the only answer.
    People leaving isn’t something you need to blame yourself for. You are human and you’re doing the best that you can in a difficult situation.
    This was a no win scenario – I know people who have left the Church because masks WERE required at ONE of our services and I also know others who left because masks WEREN’T required at BOTH services, or the mask mandate wasn’t implemented early enough in their opinion.
    The enemy has used this whole situation to divide people, including people within the Church.
    If people choose to walk away from their Church FAMILY over something as controversial as “proper” response to this pandemic, then that is on THEM, not on YOU. Loyalty and faithfulness have to come from within – you can’t instill those character traits in others.
    Keep on listening to the Holy Spirit and leading as He leads you brother. He is ultimately the one who does the work, we’re just tools in His hands. That means the final outcome is in His hands – not ours. We just need to be available to Him to do what we can do. And you are doing that.

    1. Thank you, Bob. The “buck” does stop somewhere (and I will take responsibility for my crap). The good news, however, is God uses everything and anything to mold and shape me (us) IF we will let him. It’s good that I’m learning to grieve and lean more into Him. Covid or not, this is a great lesson to learn for many of us. Love you, brother.

  4. We are called to pray for our pastors because.. well they are human too. After reading this I just want to pray for you more. The last 18 months have just been cruddy and I pray you don’t take on the responsibility for everything that transpired. People are people. They need to take some responsibility for their choices too. Kurt… know that YOU ARE LOVED and I know that pastors all over are doing the best they can. You are following Jesus … you are sharing and leading by scripture. You are doing the most important thing. Work through the grief. It comes in cycles. And in all of it, God will make something good out of a hideous 18 months of weird. I’m praying for you!

  5. WOW!
    I just want to say that the timing of your emails hit EXACTLY when I need them!! I needed this blog post today!
    Your words are what I’m feeling/dealing with now…it’s been hard to go back INTO church, I watch from online still..it truly isn’t the same, but I can’t seem to motivate myself to go back into the church, sanctuary… & sit on the pews to listen & hear Gods word.. I guess I’m just not ready.. yet

  6. praying for you today in Chicago
    thanks for the God story
    please pray for our little Noah who has to have another cochlear implant surgery on his ears Friday because the first one was defective. He will be four in August. He has regressed because of this and speaks less than he used to. He also has some balance issues and some genetic markers but God can do miracles and that’s what we are praying for.
    He is also waiting to be accepted into the Philadelphia School for the Deaf for the fall.
    Thanks so much,
    Ellen

  7. What a heart-felt post! I pray for your strength and encouragement in Jesus Name. In my experience Heavenly Father walks us through seasons of breaking us down so that we can run out of our own strength and have to rely completely on Him. Once He’s done tearing down He always rebuilds, He has a solid track record of that all throughout scripture. Once He’s done working some new Fruits of the Spirit into your life you’re going to have a beautiful testimony and a greater revelation of The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!

    1. I agree, Charity! God crushes us not in anger or to hurt us, but to build us up in Him to be so much better. You are loved!

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